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Author Topic: Military Conquest Doesn't Always End in Defeat  (Read 5218 times)

One Horse Town

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Military Conquest Doesn't Always End in Defeat
« on: August 12, 2014, 01:35:16 pm »
By DAN WHITE

You know the drill, the Cronarian Empire is sweeping all before it and making vassals and slaves of any survivors. Well, on the surface that can easily be seen to be the case, however, if you delve below the surface of the Empire, it's policies and politics is almost guaranteed to be more complex than simple subjugation.

For example, in the early expansionist days of the Ottoman Empire, the means of transferring and ruling lands was markedly different to the Western European norm. Whereas in, say France, a noble could trace the ruling line of his family back generations and most land holdings were held in perpetuity, the Ottomans had no such system.

Lands conquered by the Ottomans was normally divided up between the nobles who were most important in the taking of that land and once they died, that parcel of land was up for grabs again. No inheritance was guaranteed unless the Sultan decreed it, and he very seldom did.

This leads to an interesting dynamic in the conquering Ottoman armies, where units of conquered men led by disinherited European nobles fought tooth and nail beside the Ottomans in later battles in neighbouring lands in the hope that their bravery would lead to some (if not all) of their ancestral lands being bestowed upon them once more – albeit under a vassalage agreement with the Sultan. If they were successful and ruled the lands well, then they kept it, but upon their death, suddenly the sons of the deceased ruler would have to ride out once more in the Sultan's army.

It's an interesting system and one that lends itself well to gaming. Conquest need not be the end of your rule.

If we were to take the Ottoman example further, more often than not, they allowed freedom of worship in the lands they conquered, not only to ease ruling the recently conquered peasants, but also to make it easier for returning nobility to take up the reins of power and to keep thoughts of rebellion subsumed. A happy conquered realm is a peaceful conquered realm, as long as you sign all these documents in triplicate and pay these taxes...

Bureaucracy is the glue that keeps it all hanging together. Although you might be back on your ancestral seat, you can't attend that tribal meeting in the lands next door without the requisite travel documents. Again, in gaming terms, forgery becomes important. If you can forge the papers and the seals, then you can move about to accomplish your goals.

Perhaps the most famous method of the Ottomans in keeping conquered folk quiet was the method of taking the eldest son of each family (usually noble-born ones) to form the Janissary corps. These units of basically kidnapped children were indoctrinated in the ways of the empire, given education and training that they could only dream of back home and then used as another part of the army.

Janissaries were generally compliant, as they knew no other life, but discord was not out of the question. Perhaps the most famous rebel was Albania's national hero Georgi Castrioti, named Eskander Bey by the Ottomans (a corruption of Alexander and a clue as to how highly they rated his military skills) and simply known as Skanderbeg by Christian Europe.

On hearing of the ravaging of the lands of his father, he lead his unit of Albanian janissaries past the borders of the Empire on forged papers, raising the siege of his homeland and resisting the Ottomans for a further 20 years.

So, if were we to take this model as the model of a conquering army in a game, there are many avenues for 'free' folk to utilise whilst appearing to be happy under the yoke. You might temporarily fight in the Empires wars to get your ancestral seat back, then play politics until you are strong enough to rebel (or even simply be a land grabbing mercenary in their company). You may be a Janissary corp at the heart of the Empire, trusted by a local Pasha and able to accomplish things by covert methods until you are ready to take back your freedom. You may even be low level functionaries at court devising travel plans and fake documents to move people and units around the conquered lands chess-like.

So, you see, being conquered by the Cronarian Empire actually gives you a lot of opportunity for adventure.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 02:10:22 pm by One Horse Town »

Spinachcat

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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2014, 06:12:23 pm »
Dan, this is a great article! I would love for you to expand on these themes in either a forum thread or another article. There's some really fun ideas here.

One Horse Town

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« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2014, 07:07:34 am »
Quote from: Spinachcat;779342
Dan, this is a great article! I would love for you to expand on these themes in either a forum thread or another article. There's some really fun ideas here.


Thanks, i'll see what i can do!

Iron_Rain

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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2015, 07:54:35 pm »
I've always wondered how other countries treated conquest, as most people in the west get a very narrow picture of how that worked.

Haffrung

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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2015, 11:14:07 am »
Another thing to keep in mind is that conquest typically meant replacing the old nobility with a new one, but for most people life went on the same as before. The conquerors would usually keep the system of government in place, adopt the local customs, and if they were smart, let the common people carry on with their religions and rituals. The average farmer or small tradesman didn't really give a shit what the names or ethnic origins of his rulers were, so long as taxation and military service weren't onerous. The concept of the nation as one people is very much a development of the 19th century.
 

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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2017, 02:41:32 pm »
Quote from: Iron_Rain;825224
I've always wondered how other countries treated conquest, as most people in the west get a very narrow picture of how that worked.

The variation is incredible, even the different models of slavery (caste vs indenture vs chattel vs etc) are quite complex.

Vocabulary: the Ottoman system of recruiting male youths from European Christians as (effectively) slaves for national service (particularly the Janissaries) was called Devshirme, or "collecting."

In the USA, the Cherokee received a lot of their success from taking captives and then adopting the youths or the children of captured women into their nation. This is why modern Cherookee (or Tsalagi) appearance is so varied, including many families that appear indistinguishable from European-Americans or African-Americans. It's also why so many people can claim Cherokee ancestry - whether it's true or not, it's at least consistent with the Cherokee practice of bringing people in, rather than pushing them out.

On the other end of that spectrum, the Hopi are so traditionally-xenophobic that their language has no word for "bad." They simply say something is "Not Hopi." It's probably why there are a couple Navajo/Dineh clans that are totally descended from exiled Hopi.
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« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2017, 04:16:07 pm »
Quote from: One Horse Town;778886
By DAN WHITE

You know the drill, the Cronarian Empire is sweeping all before it and making vassals and slaves of any survivors. Well, on the surface that can easily be seen to be the case, however, if you delve below the surface of the Empire, it's policies and politics is almost guaranteed to be more complex than simple subjugation.

Sorry, Dan, but that's not how it works.
You've lost. You're playing damage control now...but damage there shall be.

Quote
For example, in the early expansionist days of the Ottoman Empire, the means of transferring and ruling lands was markedly different to the Western European norm. Whereas in, say France, a noble could trace the ruling line of his family back generations and most land holdings were held in perpetuity, the Ottomans had no such system.

Lands conquered by the Ottomans was normally divided up between the nobles who were most important in the taking of that land and once they died, that parcel of land was up for grabs again. No inheritance was guaranteed unless the Sultan decreed it, and he very seldom did.

This leads to an interesting dynamic in the conquering Ottoman armies, where units of conquered men led by disinherited European nobles fought tooth and nail beside the Ottomans in later battles in neighbouring lands in the hope that their bravery would lead to some (if not all) of their ancestral lands being bestowed upon them once more – albeit under a vassalage agreement with the Sultan. If they were successful and ruled the lands well, then they kept it, but upon their death, suddenly the sons of the deceased ruler would have to ride out once more in the Sultan's army.

It's an interesting system and one that lends itself well to gaming. Conquest need not be the end of your rule.

If we were to take the Ottoman example further, more often than not, they allowed freedom of worship in the lands they conquered, not only to ease ruling the recently conquered peasants, but also to make it easier for returning nobility to take up the reins of power and to keep thoughts of rebellion subsumed. A happy conquered realm is a peaceful conquered realm, as long as you sign all these documents in triplicate and pay these taxes...

Yes, that works. For a time.
But in a dynastic game, like Pendragon, you should remember that it's not going to work for ever. The system will be rigged against you and your descendents getting your lands again and again. It's like a casino roulette, where the odds are 38 to 36 in favour of the house - given enough games, in the end, you will lose them.
There's a reason why there's no surviving local aristocracy from the lands the Ottomans ruled:).

Quote
Bureaucracy is the glue that keeps it all hanging together. Although you might be back on your ancestral seat, you can't attend that tribal meeting in the lands next door without the requisite travel documents. Again, in gaming terms, forgery becomes important. If you can forge the papers and the seals, then you can move about to accomplish your goals.

Perhaps the most famous method of the Ottomans in keeping conquered folk quiet was the method of taking the eldest son of each family (usually noble-born ones) to form the Janissary corps. These units of basically kidnapped children were indoctrinated in the ways of the empire, given education and training that they could only dream of back home and then used as another part of the army.

Bureaucracy is good, it helps the state go smoother.
But what do the Janissaries have to do with bureaucracy? They don't help the state to function.
In fact, the collecting of children was known as "the Blood Toll" among the conquered.
I've recently visited a village in a mountain. When I asked why it's so fucking high, the answer was "our ancestors settled there to avoid the blood toll". It was hard to reach with a modern, paved road. I can only marvel at the stamina of the people who reached it and settled there;)!
Or, more likely, they felt the need to get up there.

Quote
Janissaries were generally compliant, as they knew no other life, but discord was not out of the question. Perhaps the most famous rebel was Albania's national hero Georgi Castrioti, named Eskander Bey by the Ottomans (a corruption of Alexander and a clue as to how highly they rated his military skills) and simply known as Skanderbeg by Christian Europe.

On hearing of the ravaging of the lands of his father, he lead his unit of Albanian janissaries past the borders of the Empire on forged papers, raising the siege of his homeland and resisting the Ottomans for a further 20 years.

But ultimately, his struggle was futile, it just took 20 more years. Beware, many players might well dislike that!

Quote
So, if were we to take this model as the model of a conquering army in a game, there are many avenues for 'free' folk to utilise whilst appearing to be happy under the yoke. You might temporarily fight in the Empires wars to get your ancestral seat back, then play politics until you are strong enough to rebel (or even simply be a land grabbing mercenary in their company). You may be a Janissary corp at the heart of the Empire, trusted by a local Pasha and able to accomplish things by covert methods until you are ready to take back your freedom. You may even be low level functionaries at court devising travel plans and fake documents to move people and units around the conquered lands chess-like.

So, you see, being conquered by the Cronarian Empire actually gives you a lot of opportunity for adventure.

Yes it does, but it's mostly opportunities for a TPK.

Quote from: dsivis;954395
The variation is incredible, even the different models of slavery (caste vs indenture vs chattel vs etc) are quite complex.

Vocabulary: the Ottoman system of recruiting male youths from European Christians as (effectively) slaves for national service (particularly the Janissaries) was called Devshirme, or "collecting."

However, that wasn't the translation the subjugated people (a.k.a. slaves) used.
In fact, people around here, if they pay any attention to history, still know what devshirme was.
Except we call it "the blood toll", and most people believe it's the actual translation;).
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Charon's Little Helper

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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2017, 11:28:10 am »
Quote from: One Horse Town;778886
If we were to take the Ottoman example further, more often than not, they allowed freedom of worship in the lands they conquered, not only to ease ruling the recently conquered peasants, but also to make it easier for returning nobility to take up the reins of power and to keep thoughts of rebellion subsumed. A happy conquered realm is a peaceful conquered realm, as long as you sign all these documents in triplicate and pay these taxes...

They sort of allowed freedom of worship (definitely moreso than previous Muslim countries) but non-Muslims still had all sorts of disadvantages.  Many positions in the government were Muslim only, and non-Muslims received lower pay, and often paid higher taxes.

Of course, the disadvantages varied through The Ottoman Empire's history and the exact location within the empire.

But yes - it was generally more tolerant than many contemporary empires.

Quote from: One Horse Town;778886
Perhaps the most famous method of the Ottomans in keeping conquered folk quiet was the method of taking the eldest son of each family (usually noble-born ones) to form the Janissary corps.

This was only done to non-Muslims.  

Interestingly - I've actually heard an argument that it was a secret to the Ottoman military success.  Because (the argument goes) culturally Western troops make for better infantry, while Eastern cultures make for better hit-and-run style troops - which work better as cavalry.  And once muskets became prevalent, infantry based militaries became superior and cavalry secondary.  It's one argument for the rise of the West militarily about that time.  (of course - that's only one potential factor)

As far as I'm aware, The Ottoman Empire was the only Eastern power known for its infantry since The Assyrian Empire, but their infantry (the Janissaries) were culturally Western.

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« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2017, 11:43:58 am »
Quote from: Charon's Little Helper;964062
But yes - it was generally more tolerant than many contemporary empires.
More prone to allow the conquered to keep their religion for a time, maybe, depending on which period you mean.
A better place to live if you're not from the dominant religion? Definitely not:)!

Quote
This was only done to non-Muslims.  

Interestingly - I've actually heard an argument that it was a secret to the Ottoman military success.  Because (the argument goes) culturally Western troops make for better infantry, while Eastern cultures make for better hit-and-run style troops - which work better as cavalry.  And once muskets became prevalent, infantry based militaries became superior and cavalry secondary.  It's one argument for the rise of the West militarily about that time.  (of course - that's only one potential factor)

As far as I'm aware, The Ottoman Empire was the only Eastern power known for its infantry since The Assyrian Empire, but their infantry (the Janissaries) were culturally Western.

Yes, it was only done to non-Muslims. But the "cultural" part of the argument is bullshit - the kids were brought to the Corps while still young, and there they lived in a totally foreign culture, being purposefully indoctrinated. At the end, they weren't thinking anything like Europeans, unless the program had failed;).
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Charon's Little Helper

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« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2017, 03:11:51 pm »
Quote from: AsenRG;964065
Yes, it was only done to non-Muslims. But the "cultural" part of the argument is bullshit - the kids were brought to the Corps while still young, and there they lived in a totally foreign culture, being purposefully indoctrinated. At the end, they weren't thinking anything like Europeans, unless the program had failed;).

If by "still young" you mean an average of 13.5-17ish (older end of the spectrum in later time periods - partially because muskets take less training and partially because they needed more troopers).  I'd say that by the time someone because a teenager they have a baseline cultural bias.  (Not that I'm 100% convinced of the theory that Western culture makes better infantry - but your argument against it is BS.)

By the late 17th century the whole system broke down and the Janissaries were mostly just the empire's elite troops.  Again - because as army sizes grew the system wasn't bringing in enough troops.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2017, 03:20:28 pm by Charon's Little Helper »

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« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2017, 04:37:56 pm »
Quote from: Charon's Little Helper;964108
If by "still young" you mean an average of 13.5-17ish (older end of the spectrum in later time periods - partially because muskets take less training and partially because they needed more troopers).
Don't know what time periods you're referencing, but the usual time for taking a kid as devshirme was between 8 and 10 years old, I think. Now, they were sent to Muslim families for a time, so maybe they enlisted in the corps later. Can't tell anything about that.
And the average age increase that you're referencing came in the XVI century, so please, that's omitting the height of the Ottoman military power when we're talking about the military influence of their most elite corp!

Quote
I'd say that by the time someone because a teenager they have a baseline cultural bias.  (Not that I'm 100% convinced of the theory that Western culture makes better infantry - but your argument against it is BS.)
For teenagers, I'd agree. But that's not how I studied it in history classes:).

Quote
By the late 17th century the whole system broke down and the Janissaries were mostly just the empire's elite troops.
They also grew corrupted. I mean, they had families and such things that were unthinkable before, if you believe the contemporaries' accounts:D!

And yeah, that's roughly when the West stopped fearing the Ottoman Empire too much;).
« Last Edit: May 24, 2017, 04:45:50 pm by AsenRG »
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« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2017, 06:05:35 pm »
Quote from: AsenRG;964130
Don't know what time periods you're referencing, but the usual time for taking a kid as devshirme was between 8 and 10 years old, I think. Now, they were sent to Muslim families for a time, so maybe they enlisted in the corps later. Can't tell anything about that.
And the average age increase that you're referencing came in the XVI century, so please, that's omitting the height of the Ottoman military power when we're talking about the military influence of their most elite corp!


For teenagers, I'd agree. But that's not how I studied it in history classes:).

Everything I've read says that they were taken from 8-20 for devshirme in general, but those destined to be janissaries were virtually all teens.  But - historians can argue over tidbits like that until their faces are blue and not come to any consensus.

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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2017, 05:31:58 am »
Quote from: Charon's Little Helper;964155
Everything I've read says that they were taken from 8-20 for devshirme in general, but those destined to be janissaries were virtually all teens.  But - historians can argue over tidbits like that until their faces are blue and not come to any consensus.

You're talking about the age they sent them to be Janissaries. I'm talking about the age they took them as part of the Blood Toll.
Between the two, there was a period they had to live with select families, precisely because they had to learn customs, how to be good Muslims, and the like.
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« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2017, 08:45:48 am »
Quote from: AsenRG;964253
You're talking about the age they sent them to be Janissaries. I'm talking about the age they took them as part of the Blood Toll.
Between the two, there was a period they had to live with select families, precisely because they had to learn customs, how to be good Muslims, and the like.

Not from what I've read.  8-20 was when they were taken in general for devshirme.  Those destined to be janissaries weren't taken from their parents for devshirme at all until they were teens.

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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2017, 05:10:58 am »
Quote from: Charon's Little Helper;964278
Not from what I've read.  8-20 was when they were taken in general for devshirme.  Those destined to be janissaries weren't taken from their parents for devshirme at all until they were teens.

Definitely not what I have been taught!
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